During your divorce proceedings, you and your spouse must separate each other from multiple financial and legal documents. From the deed of the house to utility bills to car loans, you will no longer be listed together. And if you don’t want to leave your spouse any inheritance, you will need to update your estate plan.
Before you finalize your divorce, you may want to change who receives benefits from your inheritance. As the recent death of Ric Ocasek shows, updating your estate plan before divorcing can help prevent your spouse from receiving benefits, even if you pass away before the divorce is official.
A new will removed Ocasek’s wife before the divorce
Ric Ocasek, the lead singer and songwriter for The Cars, passed away in September while in the middle of divorce proceedings. Since he and his wife weren’t officially divorced, she would have received a third of his estate under New York state law. However, he signed a new will before he passed, explicitly saying that she wasn’t to receive anything.
By changing his will, Ocasek made sure that a probate court could honor his wishes for his estate. While his wife still plans to challenge the change, she will have to go through a lengthy court battle.
Updating your entire estate plan
When you start to prepare for divorce, you should update your estate planning documents. In addition to your will, you will need to change the beneficiaries for your trusts. If you no longer want your spouse making medical decisions for you, you will also need to update your medical directive. And you should change the beneficiaries for your retirement account and life insurance policy.
An updated estate plan ensures that your wishes are honored, even if you pass away before officially divorcing.